The United States is credited with creating the world's first National Park when Yellowstone received that protected designation in 1872. Since then many other spectacular areas have been set aside to be enjoyed by this and future generations. The western United States has many of the most magnificent parks and wilderness areas. My particular favorites are the canyon areas of Utah and the southwest. These landscapes often seem as though they belong on a different planet. It is hard to imagine that natural erosion and geologic forces created these deep canyons, arches and surreal rock formations. One can readily see how past generations attributed their creation to supernatural forces.
But the U.S., of course, is more than a series of stunning landscapes. It is a melting pot of the many cultures who have settled this land over the centuries. The Native Americans (or America Indians) were the first to arrive, coming over from Asia more than 30,000 years ago. They settled vast regions of this country, as well as Canada, Mexico and South America. Particularly in the west, Native Americans have worked hard to preserve their cultures and their efforts have enriched the nation as a whole. The vibrancy that still remains can be seen each April in Albuquerque, NM when representatives of some 500 tribes from around the country and Canada gather for a giant pow-wow known as the "Gathering of Nations." In many parts of the west, remnants of past cultures are also still visible, in particular the cliff dwellings and other structures that once housed thriving Anasazi communities in Colorado and New Mexico.
The Spanish who settled the southwestern part of the United States and California beginning in the 16th Century have also added much to modern American culture. Spanish and Mexican influences are still seen in many areas in the churches, the arts and, my favorite, the food.
The slide show above offers some highlights of the photos that can be found on other pages in the U.S. portion of this web site. For more detail on any specific area, follow the links in the drop-down list below.